Review Summary: Criminally underrated, Cuatro is nothing short of a pinnacle for ‘90s (alt) metal.
Throughout the years, many metal musicians have been vocal about how grunge pushed their affairs in the rear, however Seattle natives and Sanctuary band mates Warel Dane and Lenny Rutledge, are by far the most representative examples in that respect. In promotional interviews about the latest Sanctuary album, they confirmed that both communities were treading on parallel paths, in an atmosphere of mutual contempt; however, both were – quote “surreally” – surprised, when their friends from Alice in Chains nailed the Sanctuary classic “Battle Angels” during a rehearsal.
Well, that incident makes sense, since AIC were the most metallic of all grunge outfits; on another note, it’s a clear innuendo that artists from both sides of the fence regarded their counterparts as a source of inspiration, outfits like Flotsam and Jetsam, for instance. The 1990 release of When the Storm Comes Down
signified the gradual departure of the Phoenix AZ natives from their late ‘80s tech-thrash metal galore, yet it was the follow-up album Cuatro
, in which (alternative) rock and atmospheric metal were seamlessly blended, to excellent effect.
’s sound quality is devastating, it is an astonishing achievement, even more when compared to its predecessor, or the crumbling sound of most early ‘90s metal albums. The guitars are heavy and sharp, but at the same time they are granted the needed depth for the development of the atmospheric (yet equally intense) album segments. The same apply for Erik AK’s vocals and the bass work, whose role is prominent through and through. In terms of style, thrash metal is still evident, but Flotsam and Jetsam take some “downright left” turns here, as alternative rock (“The Message” is also credited to Chris Cornell from Soundgarden) has indelibly marked a significant part of the album. What’s more, a genuinely adventurous song writing philosophy has been adopted, different from the tech-thrash triumph of No Place for Disgrace
, or everything dubbed as “90s progressive metal”.
The tone of the album is angry and dark. Erik AK’s vocals and masterfully written lyrics play a key part in the said respect, as they revolve through the much sung, yet globally unresolved topics of personal struggles, anti-war disposition and interpersonal disputes. While AK has showed his enormous potential in previous albums, it’s not an exaggeration to claim that his performance in Cuatro
, is on the same page with respective deliveries of frontmen like James Hetfield or Phil Anselmo. On their end, the instrumentals do not fall behind one bit; the guitars of Edward Carlson and Michael Gilbert, as well as the rhythm section of Ward and David-Smith, have lent themselves to nothing but the best from metal and alt rock, with the end material awesomely resonating the dirt and revolt of both worlds combined.
was a major label release, and a token of appreciable promotion from MTV (the excellent videos of “Wading through the Darkness”, and “Swatting at Flies” were often featured in Headbanger’s Ball), it was largely misplaced by fans; too “alt” for metalheads, too “metal” for the alt rock crowd. Nowadays, as more and more bands are doing the alt metal thing, Flotsam and Jetsam’s fourth LP sounds more relevant than it was 20+ years ago. To the defence of the aforementioned argument, it should be noted that in 2008, the Polish label of Metal Mind Records served the album some justice with its 2000-copy limited edition reissue.